Rugby Players Council Not Happy As Ambitious Plans For World League Set To Go Ahead
International rugby looks set to be changed forever with plans to create an ambitious World League that will see Japan and the USA join the Rugby Championship set to be signed off as early as next month, according the the New Zealand Herald.
The plan is to have the new format in play by 2020, with 12 teams set to compete. The 12 nations will be the current Six Nations – England, France, Italy, Scotland, Ireland and Wales – the current Rugby Championship sides of New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina plus Japan and USA who are going to be invited to join the Rugby Championship.
The new format will require all 12 nations to play each other once in the calendar year, with a semi-final and final to be played in late November, possibly early December. Organisers are hoping to get the deal signed off before the Six Nations and Rugby Championship renegotiate their current broadcast deals.
The plan is to have each of the Six Nations travel to the Southern Hemisphere for three randomly allocated tests each in the summer, and the Rugby Championship teams will then return the favour in the autumn.
But the International Rugby Players Council is not happy. The world’s top players have warned of serious “player welfare and integrity concerns” around World Rugby’s proposed competition structure for the global game. The Council of almost 40 players spoke via conference call on Tuesday night to discuss the potential 12-year deal, with nine of the world’s top ten international team captains dialling in.
Senior players from around the globe were united in their concern about the proposed format.
International Rugby Players President Jonathan Sexton said:
“While players gave this idea a cautious welcome when we met at the end of last year, it now seems like a commercial deal on the future of the game is being negotiated at a rapid pace with little consideration given to the important points we raised with World Rugby in November.
“The issue of player load has never been so topical, however needs to be properly understood. To suggest that players can play five incredibly high-level test matches in consecutive weeks in November, is out of touch and shows little understanding of the physical strain this brings”
Player Council member Kieran Read said:
“After listening to the issues raised by many of the players, we need to be very careful that we balance the commercial needs of the game, with the player welfare needs and ensure the quality and integrity of matches meets expectations.
“Fans want to see meaningful games; they don’t want to see fatigued players playing a reduced quality of rugby as part of a money-driven, weakened competition that doesn’t work for the players or clubs.
“With new technologies, new broadcast deals and new money coming into the sport, this is a crucial moment for rugby and one that many players are generally excited about. However, we have to make sure that the integrity of the game and welfare of the players is protected.”
England captain Owen Farrell added:
“Players are definitely open to discussing a new global season, but what we develop has to work with the club game in order to reduce conflict, deal with player release issues and make sure their welfare is looked after.”
“The proposal presented to us at the moment doesn’t seem to have considered this properly and shows no signs of improving this already difficult situation.”
The Players Council also stated that they understand that promotion and relegation will not form part of the new proposal, preventing Tier Two and emerging nations from accessing top level competitive matches and creating a ceiling on their aspirations to advance and improve.